How I use the Pomodoro technique:
- Pick up a kitchen timer (like the ones crafted to resemble a tomato, or pomodoro in Italian).
- Get one sticky note and a pen. Stick the note to the right side of your desk. On the top, write “Pomodoros:”, a line down write “To do:”
- Close your email, put your phone on silent, and get away from all distractions.
- Set the timer for one Pomodoro (25 min).
- Work non-stop for that 25 minute span.
- If a fleeting thought is vying to distract you during that timeframe (‘send this quick email‘, ‘remember to order some more pens‘, ‘double check that that meeting made it to my calendar‘, or ‘send that cute picture of my kid to grandma‘), jot it down on a sticky note for later.
- When your 25 min is up, count yourself one Pomodoro on the top of your sticky note.
- Set your timer for inter-Pomodoro time (5 min).
- Do the simple tasks on your sticky note.
- Say “BAM” every time you check one of those boxes on your to-do list.
- Don’t worry about getting through them all in this 5 min span.
- When that 5 min is up, start your next Pomodoro.
The idea is to maximize the amount of Pomodoros you do in one day, not the duration of time that you work. Aim to get 3 your first day. Try to get up to 8 a week later. Only have an hour of time to work on one day? Do two Pomodoros.
With this technique, you stop counting minutes and hours and instead focus on bite-sized Pomodoros. As the day goes on and you rack up Pomodoros, you have fewer distracting thoughts and more productive time. For me, watching the clock causes a mild, counterproductive agitation. I don’t have this response counting Pomodoros.
This system helps you optimize your 1. Productivity requiring extended focus (writing papers, etc.), and 2. Productivity requiring little focus of silly things that you are putting off for later (quick emails, etc.).
In my opinion, the only drawback of the Pomodoro technique is the kitchen timer. It’s not quiet. Unless you have an office with a door and walls with soundproofing or work from home by yourself, this timer will cause problems with neighbors. Its not-so-quiet countdown/clicking and jarring ring will annoy folks in libraries, coffee shops, or cubicle communities.
Tomighty is a Java-based applet that replicates the tomato timer, written by Célio Cidral Junior. It has a lovely countdown click and time’s-up ring. It’ll keep track of your Pomodoros. It’s free and open source and should work on any computer (PC, Mac, Linux) with Java. Though, not the stock version of Java. I have struck out many times trying to figure out the correct version of Java to install and use. Every time I figure it out, I say “I should write this down.” Then I don’t. Fortunately, there is beta version written in C++ for Windows that doesn’t require Java. Just save the folder on your desktop and run the executable.